<
>

Springboks need a kicking coach to help Jantjies and Pollard

The Springboks' Handre Pollard kicks at the posts during South Africa's clash against Wales in Cardiff on 2 December 2017. Paul Jenkins/Action Plus via Getty Images

It's not unusual for goal-kickers to have an off day from the kicking tee. It happens to the very best kickers on the planet.

However, it's become a regular occurrence for the Springboks' goal-kickers to leave points out on the field. Elton Jantjies and Handré Pollard have shared the Bok No 10 jersey over the last few years, but both have had their fair share of misses off the kicking tee.

Pollard missed five of his seven shots at goal in the Boks' Rugby Championship opener against Argentina on Saturday, leaving a total of 13 points out on the Kings Park turf.

"He missed five of out of seven kicks. I'm going to lie to you if I say I'm not happy with his goal-kicking, and he will tell you he is not happy with his goal-kicking," Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus said after the match.

"[All Blacks flyhalf] Beauden Barrett missed two of three in front of the poles, but made up for it with a couple of tries. It wasn't his [Pollard] greatest day at the office, but we will work on it and hopefully he comes back stronger the next time."

But it's become a trend over the last few years that the Springboks haven't been able to exert scoreboard pressure on their opponents, because their kickers haven't always converted kickable penalties.

The Boks are a team who needs to start well, as their game is about momentum. If they dominate the collisions they can earn penalties, which helps them get field position and kickable penalties. It's a slow death, sufficating the opposition early on and making it hard for them to get back in the clash.

But because they haven't been able to kick their penalties and build scoreboard pressure, the Springboks haven't been able to execute their plans properly and more often than not find themselves playing catch-up rugby.

But Jantjies and Pollard aren't actually the worst kickers in the world, as the Lions man had a 77-percent success rate from 91 kicks in the 2018 Super Rugby campaign, while Pollard converted an impressive 86 percent of his 61 attempts during the competition.

So why are these two players not slotting their goals at international level? Obviously, it could be various factors, such as technique or a mental block of some kind.

But who is helping these players work on their kicking at Springbok level? Because, currently, there isn't a recognised kicking coach in the management team. Who is working to refine the two kickers' technique? And is somebody working on the mental aspect of this department?

It seems like the kickers need to sort it out on their own, and maybe put in extra practice to get it right. Like a golfer hits lots of balls to get that repetitive swing. But you need an expert to tell you what you are doing wrong, to see why you are hitting that slice off the tee.

Jantjies and Pollard are fine players, but their goal-kicking problems could start to affect their respective games. They need help to sort out their problems, and Erasmus will do well to add a kicking expert to his coaching staff to help iron out the problems, which is something that didn't actually start yesterday.

You can have the best team in the world, but if you don't have a reliable goal-kicker you are not going to win big tournaments. The biggest one of them all -- the Rugby World Cup in Japan -- is just over a year away. Erasmus needs to make use of this time to get his kickers up to scratch.